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Battle.net Forums To Demand Real Names

Big news for Battle.net users, and possible important implications for net privacy as a whole, via this posting from Blizzard:

anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic Battle.net forums, will remain unchanged.

More thoughts below.

On the one hand, I can see the value of real names, and I’ve been on forums where they are mandatory. It’s mature, and possibly healthy for net use as a whole. But it does eat into net privacy, particularly that distancing of personal identity that we’ve all enjoyed for a long time with games. I certainly enjoyed not being Jim Rossignol from PC Gamer And Rock, Paper, Shotgun for most of the time I played Eve, for example (people not always comfortable with journalists, etc). Other people might find themselves attracting unwanted attention for quite different reasons. There are plenty of reasons why having your real name available to people you played videogames with might not be safe, or appropriate.

Nevertheless Blizzard seem certain it is in their interest, and that of the players. for their forums to feature real names. It seems that the move is an attempt to improve the atmosphere on the Battle.net forums, and to create a more mature “social network” feel to the service.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

Perhaps it will do that, but I can imagine situations (as mentioned above) where it would discourage posting for one reason or another. It could well simply create more shadow forums alongside it where privacy is supported.

So what do you think, readers? Real names on RPS comments? (I jest. OR DO I? No, I am joking. Maybe.)

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Jim Rossignol

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